Last year, I had to make a late amendment to my Coachella reports, and I’m going to have to do it again. (I can’t believe I forgot!) But every bit as much as a phone charger or a tube of sunscreen, a bandana is a necessary item in Indio. At first, I scoffed at those who paraded around the polo grounds with everything from medical masks to their AC/DC t-shirts wrapped around their mouths and noses. That is, until I realized I was ingesting enough dust and dirt to fill a small garden box. Typically, it doesn’t get really bad until the sun goes down, but it’s like "The Grapes of Wrath" meets "Mad Max" after that.
There’s always amazing art on the Coachella campus, and this year most of it’s new. Robert Bose’s "Ballon Chain" is an ever-present festival staple, but first-time installments dominate the landscape. Aphidoidea’s "Chrono Chromatic" greets you as you enter the grounds, while "Big Horn Palace" by Shrine and Joel Dean Stockdill occupies the the real estate between the Gobi and Mojave Tents. Poetic Kinetics are back. They’ve swapped last year’s gigantic astronaut for the similarly-scaled "Papilio Merraculous" -- a gigantic, brightly colored caterpillar.
There are others as well: large-scale, geometric light boxes called "Praxis" by Ben and John Zamora, the shade-making "Pulp Pavilion" by the Ball-Nogues Studio, and a weird, sunglasses-wearing woodchuck (or maybe a gopher) sitting atop a small staircase called "A Festo Viate" by the Haas Brothers.
They’re all interesting, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had been much more impressed by the installments of past years. That is, until I saw something called "The Corporate Headquarters" by Derek Doublin and Vanessa Bonet. A three-story building sitting in the middle of the polo grounds, it’s a smaller scale version of any office building, in any city center. There’s a helicopter (covered in what looks like seaweed) on the roof of the structure, and a large ad for "Pond Water -- a fragrance for hippos" on one entire side. On the east-facing side, it’s all glass, and festival goers are treated to performance art on a grand scale. Pretty much all day, artists -- all in business attire, and all wearing hippo masks -- go through some kind of mundane process associated with a corporate work day. Some of the hippos are having problems with the copy machine, some are banging their faces (?) against their computer screens, and some are sitting in a never-ending meeting. The whole thing is fascinating, and one of the more thought-provoking and interesting pieces I’ve seen at Coachella.
The transitory nature of the festival’s art is part of its allure, but this is one that should stick around for another year.
There was also plenty of music to be had on Saturday as well. I watched and photographed 19 bands. My day went like this:
Bostich & Fussible, Parquet Courts, Perfume Genius, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Royal Blood, Bad Religion, Benjamin Booker, Toro y Moi, Chet Faker, Jungle, Yelle, Belle and Sebastian, Run the Jewels, alt-J, Father John Misty, the Gaslamp Killer Experience, Jack White, FKA Twigs, and Drive Like Jehu.
It makes me tired just typing them. But it was worth it. Everyone was great. Jack White didn’t let any photographers shoot his set, but made the most of his headlining slot. And it was nice to see Bad Religion, even with all of that grey hair, play their first-ever Coachella performance.
There was also a nice moment when St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ frontman, Paul Janeway, told the story of how he came to Coachella in 2008 to see Prince (he even braved camping!), and how it was a surreal experience to now be on stage at the festival.
For me, the stand-outs were Benjamin Booker and Run the Jewels. Booker was nothing short of amazing, channeling some kind of different level like punk-rock Jimi Hendrix playing at a psychedelic juke joint. I think this kid’s career has superstar written all over it. And while Run The Jewels had the wow factor of Blink-182’s Travis Barker, Rage Against The Machine’s Zach De La Rocha, and rapper Memphis Boo joining them on stage, the duo of Killer Mike and El-P proved why they have owned hip-hop this year.
And there’s more music today! My feet hurt and I feel like I have dust in my teeth, but it’s time to do it all over again.